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U.N. team sides with Pakistan in dispute over U.S. drone strikes

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Court pressures Obama

WASHINGTON — A federal judge twice considered by President Obama for the Supreme Court has rebuked his administration over the secrecy surrounding a program of aerial drone strikes abroad, adding to pressure Obama faces from fellow Democrats.

A ruling on Friday from Judge Merrick Garland in Washington capped a week of mounting calls for the release of more information.

Writing for himself and two other judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Garland criticized the CIA for refusing in a lawsuit even to acknowledge the existence of its drone program. He called the CIA's legal reasoning indefensible and a fiction.

The ruling revived a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union is asking for records from the CIA. Obama administration lawyers have opposed the suit.

­­— Reuters

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By The Associated Press
Friday, March 15, 2013, 5:27 p.m.
 

ISLAMABAD — The head of a U.N. team that made a secret investigation of casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared on Friday that the attacks violate Islamabad's sovereignty.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes — a position that has been disputed by American officials.

“It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states,” said Emmerson.

President Obama stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border when he took office in 2009.

The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties — allegations denied by the United States.

According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator's three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.

Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson's team, said that the organization he runs, the Center for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed about 200 civilians.

The U.N. investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in Pakistan and several other countries began in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October.

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